Importing seeds - best experience so far

Lee Poulsen
Wed, 07 Mar 2007 21:33:54 PST
Over the years I've gotten seeds from overseas from various  
countries. In the "old days" they were addressed to me and came  
directly to me every time, no problems. After a phyto suddenly became  
required, only a very very very few sources could or would go through  
the steps to do it properly. Most places and people, even reputable  
longtime sources of seeds ignored the new requirements at that time,  
and I never had any package confiscated. Ever since the new small  
lots of seeds permits came into effect (no longer requiring a phyto),  
I've basically had two different kinds of experiences so far.

Either the sender pasted the required import permit label on the  
outside of the envelope or package AND wrote my address on the  
outside (which the label instructions specifically state should NOT  
be done), in which case the packages came directly to me and were  
never stopped or inspected,
Or the sender pasted the label on the outside of the package and did  
NOT write my address on the outside of the package, in which case the  
packages (in my case) all were delivered directly to the APHIS/PPQ  
inspection station near the LAX airport. In every case I've gotten a  
phone call from them telling me the seeds were cleared for release  
and I could come pick them up between 8 am and 4:30pm Monday through  
Friday only and not between noon and 1:00 pm either after driving  
directly across most of Los Angeles and then trying to drive back,  
during work and hoping not to hit traffic somewhere. Or I could give  
them a FedEx charge number or I could send them actual postage stamps  
for the correct domestic postage to get it mailed across town. No  
cash and no credit cards could be accepted. I usually had a friend  
who lives nearby go and pick them up and I could pick them up from my  
friend later in the evening after the traffic had dissipated. I  
believe that the reason the label specifies that the final  
destination address NOT be placed on the outside of the package was  
precisely because of what usually happens which is what I described  
that happened to me. Which means incoming packages never get  
intercepted to be inspected.

However, today I received a package of seeds from Australia that had  
the label pasted on the outside AND my address written on the outside  
as well. This time, however, it went to the inspection station, they  
inspected it and then taped it up and sent it directly on to me  
without any phone call and without any additional postage. This is  
the first time this has happened to me in more than ten years of  
importing seeds from outside the U.S. The sender had drawn a box  
around my address, drew some arrows pointing to it, and had written  
above the top of the rectangle surrounding my address: "Permit Holder  
& Final Address". I believe that every nation that has joined the  
International Postal Union (pretty much almost every country in the  
world <…>) is  
required to follow a standard set of rules, one of which is that the  
postage charged for an international package or letter covers  
delivery of that item to the final destination written on the outside  
of the item. I believe this has been a point of disagreement with the  
USPS and APHIS/PPQ and is why the local inspection office had to ask  
me for additional postage or a FedEx charge number to deliver  
packages to me when the sender did NOT write my address on the  
outside of the package. This would be great if they continue this  

Furthermore, the sender had included a cover sheet inside the package  
that stated that the seeds were fleshy and could possibly germinate  
during delivery despite having been kept dry and dark the entire  
time. A few of the seeds HAD germinated en route, but nothing was  
confiscated and the sheet had been opened and read. So that is good too.

So if this way of doing it continues, I think all of the concerns of  
each of the parties will be satisfied.

--Lee Poulsen
Pasadena, California, USA, USDA Zone 10a

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